500 Coffees #78: Nick Zarzycki

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More than 77 weeks ago I embarked on a mission to publish 500 Coffees over the next few years. My goal is to introduce you to people who are doing really cool stuff in and for the city you live in.

COFFEE #78
Name: Nick Zarzycki
Occupation: Publisher / Humour Writer
Beverage: Water

Meet Nick Zarzycki, the guy who heads up Canada’s best (and my favourite) humour website, The Syrup Trap, also known as “The Canadian Onion” (the site, not the guy).

nick-zarzycki

We met for coffee at Caffè Cittadella, a spot I somehow hadn’t ever been to even though they’ve been open nearly a decade. If you’re as unfamiliar as I was, it’s one of the most impossible businesses in the entire city. Located about a block West of Whole Foods on the corner of 7th Ave and Ash, their operation is run out of a restored heritage home sitting on a lot that’s likely worth more coffees and sandwiches than you could sell out of the space in the span of 25 years. A beautiful two-storey space off the well-beaten path of Cambie and Broadway, the fact that it’s been in business for as long as it has is both a miracle and a cause for hope. And much like the coffee I had with Thomas Mulcair in a downtown cafe that almost visibly leans to the left, it was fitting to meet Nick at this oddball spot; his project is weird and wonderful and there’s nothing like it in Canada.

As a faithful reader of his stories and as someone who has the same title at our publication (founder and Editor-in-Chief), I felt an immediate kinship when sitting down with Nick. While our editorial mandates are miles apart, running popular online properties in Canada has us sharing a ton of common ground.

For the most part we chatted about business. I had a ton of questions around monetization and growth and page impressions and a bunch of other subjects that would bore you to tears. After 2 and a half years of running The Syrup Trap, successfully transitioning it from its UBC-centric approach into a broader audience and a very different business model, he’s running head-on into the struggles that I encountered a few years back when V.I.A. was growing and evolving. I won’t burden you with the details – nor should I share much of what was said as it was semi-confidential trade secret kind o’ stuff – but I will let you in a not-so-secret piece of information about how they decide which stories they publish in their “fake news” articles that you’ve likely seen pop up in your Facebook feed. It’s called the laugh test and it is exactly as it sounds; their writers generally begin their regular editorial meetings armed with a long list of their individual headline ideas – they’re instructed to bring 25 to each meeting as Nick believes that 98% of the ideas that we (humans, collectively) come up with are garbage. Not being too precious with the concepts, they read out their headlines and surface the 2%. The good stuff. They do this by seeing which of them get the most laughs from the group, and they run with that scientific data and write those stories.

I’m looking forward to the following the continuing success of The Syrup Trap, and I hope that this isn’t the last coffee meeting I have with Nick.

Head over to SyrupTrap.ca right now for a laugh, and be sure to like their Facebook Page. And for a more in-depth look at what they’re doing check out this feature from The Globe and Mail, coincidentally written by 500 Coffees Subject #12, Marsha Lederman.

Stay tuned for 422 more Coffees! Check out the caffeinated archive HERE.